Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
By Duane Stanley
At least in Star Trek's vision of the future, we will find ourselves travelling from place to place instantaneously through something called a "transporter." Perhaps the future has arrived.
Kathy and I were strolling Fisherman's Wharf in August during a break in the San Francisco conference I was attending. I was keeping an eye out for something to share with co-workers once I returned to the Twin Cities, and we entered a saltwater taffy store. From dozens of barrels that filled the store, I could choose from a seemingly endless choice of flavors. In the very back of the store I came across a couple bushel baskets that contained something other than the small nuggets of saltwater chewables.
My eye locked onto something I had not seen for decades. There was no mistaking the flat bar with the dramatic red text against a backdrop of yellow wrapper: "Turkish Taffy," exactly as it looked in 1958. I was transported 2,000 miles and 50 years to a little gas station on Highway 55 Ð all in the blink of an eye.
To my later regret, I bought only one of the banana-flavored bars, my favorite. Perhaps I was put off by the fact that what I remembered as nickel candy was now priced over two dollars. So I stretched my enjoyment out over a week or so, keeping the taffy in the fridge and snapping off small chunks, rationing my supply.
To my delight, even a small chunk on my tongue provided the return to Kimball when, at the recess bell, this nine-year-old headed out the back of the school and ran across to the little gas station with its candy supply. Absolutely delightful.
Of course, we know that tastes and smells can be deeply imbedded in our memories, grabbing us without warning. It may be that "new car smell," or that special perfume that mother wore. Did my mother really love the fragrance of gardenias that four sons provided in gallons of perfume or bubble bath during a decade of birthdays and Christmases?
Then this week, from the farmer's market on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis, I picked up some fresh fruit, including some deep purple plums at just the peak stage of juicy ripeness. Back at my desk I bit through the skin and juice tried to dribble down my chin. I realized that again I had been transported back to the 50s, to Grandpa Lafe's farm north of Kimball. I was out beyond the granary where three plum trees dropped their fruit onto old pieces of machinery that had been pulled between them to rust away their final years. There was too much machinery to allow mowing below the trees, so by the time plums were ripe, the grass was tall, camouflaging the rusty horse-drawn plows, drags, and planters. So we didn't regularly collect the fruit, except for an occasional piece to eat fresh. (Perhaps in Grandpa's pre-widower days, Mamie had harvested and canned the fruit.)
As I focused on this transport phenomenon, I realized that two additional smells and tastes bind my memories to Kimball. The third is the smell of Old Spice aftershave lotion. Uncle Merton Eaton, as with many other single farmers, often let a day or two or more pass without bothering to shave before (or after) heading out to do chores. That was true of any day except Sunday. On that day he was out early to complete the milking and then returned to clean up before church. A good shave was followed by a generous splash of Old Spice that would fill the cab of the pick-up as we drove in to church. While writing this, I went over to my seldom-opened bottle of Old Spice. Sure enough, this transporter also still works.
Thinking of church at Kimball reminded me of my fourth "transporter." There is one kind of candy that puts me into a pew, near the front, three rows from the organ at the Church of Christ on "church corner." There, grandsons would join Grandpa Lafe in the pew he had claimed for years. Eventually he would reach into his rumpled suit pocket and pull out a handful of those thick pink disks that taste a lot like Pepto-Bismol. Unfamiliar with the medicine, I simply enjoyed the candy, after we separated the pink from the blue and grey lint that had multiplied in his suit for a decade or more. I realize now, as I occasionally uncap a Pepto-bottle, that this experience too returns me to Kimball. Even when it isn't Sunday, I find myself in church with Grandpa's rough, stiff fingers reaching into his suit to offer me a pink treat.
I have realized that other tastes and smells transport me to other times and places, like fresh juicy pineapple can place me on the farm in South Africa. What great memories, and what a cheap way to transport around the country, or the world.
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Thank you for joining us Sept. 28, to hear all about the sometimes controversial WPA projects of the 1930s with one of our favorite historian/author/speakers Bill Morgan, who has again written another book, and never loses his attentive audiences. He is a gifted story-teller and special friend of Kimball's Historical Society, you won't want to miss next time he's here.
Maureen Galvin, the curator for Sherburne County Historical Society brings her remarkable somewhat forgotten "Sears Roebuck Catalog Homes" success story and still part of a long history. Start planning now to attend Oct. 26. Watch our column for more details.
Nature reveals few secrets. The days are shorter, the sky is cloudier and the nights are getting colder. Winter is on the way. But it's not too early to think gifts. Give the gift of history. The rich history of Maine Prairie the first 150 years is a treasure as is our popular keepsake cookbook, numerous souvenirs, all at reasonable prices at the State Bank of Kimball, and at our Historical Society events.
A huge welcome to our most recent new members. Phase 5 is in progress for the preservation/restoration of Kimball's historic City Hall. Our society has raised most of the funds, secured all the matching grants and served as the project directors.
Today in history: In 1849, author Edgar Allan Poe died at age 40. In 1940, the Republic of East Germany was formed. In 1963, President Kennedy signed the documents of ratification for a nuclear test ban treaty with Britain and the Soviet Union.
Watch for even more events coming in November. For information, membership, donations, adding your family stories to our growing collection, or for this column, contact us at the Kimball Area Historical Society, Box 100, Kimball, MN 55353, or (320) 398-5743, 5250, or e-mail
, and with your continued support, we hope to keep area history in the lime-light for generations to come.
Next Board of Directors Meeting for the Kimball Area Historical Society is 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, at the Triple R Grill and Bar. This is open to the public.